Dr. Adolf Bersch Has Left us at 95

Adolf Bersch was born on April 8, 1915 to a farming family in the Volga region, and at the age of 95 he died on April 21, 2010 in Bayreuth, Bavaria.

Zielke, Reinhold. "Dr. Adolf Bersch Has Left us at 95." Volk auf dem Weg, June 2010, 46.

Translation from the Original German-language text to American English provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
Dr. Adolf Bersch at age 50 and at 90

After completing middle school, Adolf Bersch studied history and Germanistics at the German Pedagogical Institute in Engels, the then capital city of the Volga German Republic. He received his doctorate with a thesis on “Participation by Volga Germans in the Pugachev Uprising (1773 - 1775).” and from September, 1935 on he taught history.

In 1937, after his father Jakob Bersch was arrested by the NKVD, Adolf Bersch, the son of an “enemy of the people,” was relieved of all of his positions at the Workers’ Faculty and at the Institute, forcing him to search for another job and different place to live. He did find work as a teacher of history at the Marxstadt Pedagogical Institute.

In January of 1940 he began to serve in the Red Army. When the war [with Germany] began in 1941, he was transferred to the front and was wounded. He then became prisoner of war and after regaining his health he was naturalized as a [German] citizen and inducted into the German Wehrmacht [Army]. Due to his knowledge of two languages he was assigned as an interpreter at the front. There followed assignments to the Eastern front, renewed injury and, following the war, a stint in a Soviet camp for “repatriates,” and then banishment to the Tomsk region in Siberia.

Between 1957 and 1993 Adolf Bersch again lived in the Volga region, this time in the Volgograd area. Initially he taught at a middle school, then at the university level as “lector-consultant” for German as a foreign language.

As a late Aussiedler, he arrived in Germany in 1993 and, after a short stay in a transition camp, took up residence in Bayreuth. At age 95, all alone, he slipped into eternal sleep. I had talked with him as late as a week before his 95th birthday. He was in a good mood, spoke cheerfully and with humor. “Why did God gift me with old age? – I am happy!” That ended up being his last sentence during our final conversation.   

This brings up the question, “What is happiness?” During the last ten years of his life, Adolf Bersch was blind, used a wheel chair for several years, a stiff corset kept his upper body rigid, and he needed around-the-clock care. “He was happy!” – Only in the best novels of world literature can one read about such fabulous heroes. But, wait – perhaps I am wrong?

Adolf Bersch had a phenomenal memory, and that was his good fortune. The books he wrote while in Germany he had to dictate literally from memory. Nearly unbelievable! I often had to provide auxiliary literary material for him from various German libraries, but on two occasions he actually protested against my information assistance. In one case, he still held to the belief that that S.M. Kirov’s murderer was not Nikolayev, but somebody else, someone who might have been denounced after the assassination. Conditions prior to perestroika times had taken deep roots in him.

The second instance, accompanied by much excitement, had to do with two great men of literature, Heinrich Mann and Romain Rolland. Both had visited the Soviet Union in the 1930s, had returned home, and had written glorious works about Josef Stalin and his own work. Were these men blind? They were from the West, after all, and Rolland was actually a Nobel Prize winner! Yes, my dear Adolf Bersch, we were and will remain blind “for eternity.” We only think otherwise.

Adolf Bersch did succeed in describing his epoch in all thinkable aspects. He dedicated his eleventh book, produced entirely from memory, to the topic of the Volga Republic. All of his published books were sent to him on his 95th birthday -- a final gift to him and to his reader fans.

We, the following, mourn a courageous and strong literary patriarch: Reinhold and Amalia Zielke and family, Viktor Heinz, Reinhold and Emilia Heinz and family, Eduard Deibert, Viktor Kissling, and Edmund Mater.           

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of these articles.

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